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Unsold Petito op-ed

Wednesday 9/22/21

Let tragedy be tragedy, and don’t be a “yeah, but” person


After learning that the remains of Gabby Petito had been recovered, I did a version of what a lot of people probably did. After working all weekend, I was trying to relax with a football game. Off that went, because it felt silly. I turned to a pocket of respite in the form of Judy Garland movie, and I thought about a young woman and her family.


Eventually, I checked social media. I’ll do this because I have a hope I’ll see things that will surprise me, reinvigorate my faith in society. There’s sustaining sustenance in having negative expectations dashed.


What I saw, of course, was a lot of people angling for clout. And painfully unfunny, cruel “jokes” from comedians, which were defended by their followers saying, “That’s his job!” as if that grants absolution for being a garbage human.


But I’d say that one of the predominant strains of post—and forms of response—always seems to come from the “yeah, but” people, as I call them.


In this case, they were out in droves, saying why is no one talking about women of color who go missing? Why is this pretty, middle class, young white woman getting all of the attention?


Life can sting the life out of you, if you will. Both in direct experience, and in how we empathize with what others might be feeling.


And here is what I have learned when that happens: let it.


Let that sting, let that tragedy, be what it is. Let it be the totality as it is standing there in front of you. As it washes over you. As it makes you cry. Makes you buckle.


That’s not to diminish anything else. The thousands and thousands of daily instances of tragedy in this country. But don’t point away from the one that is taking its sad turn across life’s oft-grim stage.


The wagging finger will keep. The statistics will keep. To be fully human is a process of being fully present, with installments to that process.


A story becomes a trending story for all kinds of reasons. A narrative. Skin color—and that can work both ways. Luck. A first-reported piece has some legs, and other venues pick up on it.


The media is, I hate to break it to you, much more often motivated by clicks than any sense of justice or fondness for one race over any other. The less work that is required to get those clicks, the more the media usually likes it. The media doesn’t exist for the edification of your soul.


I saw this one woman carrying on, ranting at people for not caring enough about other women who have gone missing, putting all men on blast, saying what is wrong with you evil men, how can you watch football right now?


One looks at such a feed, and sees, interspersed, a joke in a concomitant post about Cap’n Crunch cereal, and it’s like, come on.


Life is hard enough. When a confluence of factors puts an example in front of our collective faces to remind us of that eternal verity, take it for what it is. Live with it for the moment. The evening. Just let it be the thing that is the focus of your mind.


Sometimes the real main cause of causes, for all of the talk of causes, is just being a feeling, present human. And if we all did more of that, the world would have less of this.